Wednesday, October 08, 2008

My Friends, Could We Vote Tomorrow? Or, Why The Radical Burned the Applesauce

One of the consequences of last night's presidential debate was that I overcooked the applesauce. You would think maybe I should follow the advice of both candidates and act responsibly with the apples, an untapped national resource which arrive in large bags every week from the farm share I belong to. Am I supposed to save them in the basement like a squirrel so that I can eat locally all winter? Turn them into ethanol? Or sell them on a street corner in downtown New York as a dramatic re-enactment of the Great Depression?

Oops -- I forgot. We don't need to re-enact the Great Depression! We are in the Great Depression! This must be something that McCain and Obama agreed not to discuss last night, leaving the rest of us wondering if they even read the newspapers anymore. It's not just "the economy, stupid" anymore, it's "what economy, stupid?" And yet, you could have listened to the whole debate last night and not known that a major consequence of the global meltdown is that Iceland -- a crucial NATO ally in the mid-Atlantic -- is being gobbled by the Russians, who Sarah Palin has seen from her house -- or was it flying over her house? Well, they may be flying over my house too soon, and maybe I'll run for Vice President next time 'round.

Instead of reading job applications, I used the time between The Lehrer NewsHour and the presidential debate to peel a pile of hardy New England fruits and turn them to apple sauce, so that I could transfer them from the kitchen counter to the freezer in compact little plastic boxes. They were supposed to cook, not overcook, during the debate. The overcooking had two consequences: one is that the whole pot caramelized, which will mean the outcome is either really good or really awful. Whenever the Mother of the Radical (MOTHeR) made such a mistake, she would look at her daughters brightly and say, "Well, we'll just eat it with ice cream!" I thought this was a normal, viable choice to make about failed food -- I now think it was a consequence of having grown up in the 1930's, when calories mattered, Goddamnit!

The other consequence of the overcooking is a nasty, deep-brown burned crust at the bottom of the pot. Will it come off eventually? It's too early to tell. But as they used to say in the first New Deal, "Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without!"

Why am I attributing this cooking blunder to the debate? My friends (a phrase John McCain repeated over and over and over): last night's debate was one of the most wooden and boring performance I have ever seen two candidates put on. Although I did not fall asleep, I fell into a kind of trance. I saw this mirrored in the faces of the audience, a group of Sixpack Joes and Josephines all gussied up in the clothes they still have left after the mortgage meltdown, people who looked like a bunch of captives who wanted to be anywhere but in the national spotlight. My boredom was only interrupted by moments in which I was briefly appalled: McCain referring to Obama as "that one" (did he forget Obama's name?); Obama "getting tough" and announcing that he would be happy to invade Pakistan (which the United States is already doing, but it made me think that Obama actually should talk to Bill Ayers, since it was a similar all-out bombing of Cambodia that caused Weatherman to split from the peace movement and go into violent opposition to the war.)

And it went on, and on, and on. Obama showed none of the spark, intelligence, zest, and humor that has catapulted him from the Illinois legislature to a national candidacy in five years; John McCain tottered around the stage like a mechanical doll with a key in his back. Watching Obama reminded me of old New Jersey Devils' playoff games, in which they would play defense relentlessly for three periods (analysis: Obama is ahead, and the plan was to not blow it.) Watching McCain made me think, no wonder they thought Sarah Palin was a viable candidate -- the guy is incoherent, can't finish a sentence, and can't answer a question with anything but catch phrases: "earmarks," "cronies," "higher taxes," "experience." At one point he mentioned -- for reasons that were never explained -- that Obama had purchased an overhead projector. I mean, come on. I once purchased an overhead projector, and I consider myself fiscally responsible. Who in America gives a crap about a bunch of unspecified earmarks when we are spending ten billion dollars a month in Iraq? (Analysis: McCain was told to get aggressive and stick to a few talking points that are supposed to mobilize the sans culottes wing of the Republican Party to get out there with their pikes and pitchforks on election day. "No new taxes! Harrr! Overhead projector! Harrr!")

Like the apples, both of these candidates have caramelized. Political consultants have ruined politics if we can be in a global economic meltdown, fewer than thirty days from choosing the new leader of the Free World, and the major parties can't do better than this. But most important, from my point of view, neither candidate wanted to answer a question, and they didn't, so absolutely nothing new came out of the debate. Any undecided voter who has been living on a desert island for the last two years may have gotten some good information; the rest of us, I think, have a right to be offended.

For a more charitable account of the debate in the Paper of Record, go here; for Maureen Dowd on Zoloft (thank goddess!) go here; and for the analysis of my Zenith colleague and fellow blogger, political scientist Elvin Lim, click here.


Anonymous said...

At the least you could save the applesauce--you've begun making apple butter. Scrape the good stuff out of the pot, run it through a food mill or sieve, add some brown sugar and cinnamon, and cook it a bit more. Preferably in a crockpot or oven on "low" so it won't scorch.

There's a parallel here, somewhere, to politics (scrape, run, sieve, add, cook, scorch). But I'm still too tired from watching the debate to attempt it.

Susan said...

What Historiann said. And next time, don't bother peeling the apples. (I'm lazy, you know.) Just use the food mill : )

THe caramel at the bottom of the pot will come off, with lots of boiling water. That's MY prediction.

Oh, and I mostly agree with you on the debate, though I think it picked up as it went along. I did the ironing while I watched, so at least something constructive was done!

AcadeMama said...

"Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without!"

A child of the 80s, I've never heard this phrase before, but it's now my official motto when my children ask for the latest video game machine, A&F outfit, or Webkinz stuffed animal. I simply adore this phrase--Depression or not!

P.S. Give the pot a long soak, and the brown gunk will come off. If all else fails, use a little bit of oven cleaner to break through the crusty coating.

Anonymous said...

I was all excited because of the "town hall" forum, but they were boring. Reminded me of why, as a child, I dreaded the debates when my parents watched.

I'm making apple crisp with my farm share apples this week. And we have green beans coming out our ears now! Thank goodness my kids love them! Saturday we get to take the trip to the farm for pick up. The kids love going. Get to see the farm and the animals. We take turns since the farm is an hour away and pick up for 18 families. I love the farm share -- hope I can find one in England!

Tim Lacy said...

On that "overhead projector," well, I have some inside information. I know a few folks who work at the Adler Planetarium---the recipient of Obama's "largesse."

As an institution of the arts and sciences in Chicago, the Adler is---like many across the nation---chronically underfunded. That "overhead projector" is actually a complex instrument that helps with projecting the stars in such a way that students can be educated about science and astronomy.

I was wishing that Obama would've defended himself on that remark like this:

"John, I support science education. As an Illinois senator, I know how underfunded museums and arts institutions are in my states. And the Adler Planetarium is home to a number of smart, hardworking folks who are simply trying to educate the denizens of Chicago and Illinois about science. Now, if you share the views of your running mate, Professor---err Governor---Palin, we all know how Republicans feel about science. As president, I will brook no criticism for supporting public education in the arts and sciences, whether in Chicago, Illinois, or anywhere else in the United States. What's merely an earmark or just an "overhead projector" to you, John, is at the Adler an complex instrument utilized to keep people excited about astronomy and the possibilities of space exploration."

...Asinine. Idiots.

There, I've had my say. - TL

Tim Lacy said...

Guess what? I just discovered that Obama's earmark request for the Adler Planetarium was actually never funded. So, yet another lie paraded as a fact.

But I stand by my fictional reply for Obama on the defense of science education. - TL

Tim Lacy said...

One more comment on the "overhead projector." Check out this press release from the Adler Planetarium on McCain's comment. - TL

Jarrod Hayes said...

Thank you Tim for that. I sent the press release out to my usual list of people I annoy with stuff like that. Thank you TR for your trenchant analysis! I have no recommendations for the apples, but I had never head of a farm share. When my wife and I move back to the US, I sure hope there's one where we end up.

Anonymous said...

If you boil some coke (or other soda) in the pan it will take any burns right off the pan - and give it a nice shine.

davidjhemmer said...

I'm sorry did I miss something in the Constitution that gives the federal government the power to tax the citizens of New York and give that money to a planetarium in Chicago? Whatever happened to enumerated powers? (See Article I Section 8 Mr. Biden)

And there is way too much being made of the "that one" comment. Here is the full remark:

"You know who voted for it? You might never know. That one. You
know who voted against it? Me."

Would it have been better he he said "Him" instead of "that one". Probably. But anyone listening knew the point McCain was making. One would expect that McCain voted for and Obama against and he's saying "This one voted against and that one voted for."

At least he didn't claim the US government invented the computer or publicly announce that he would send troops into "Pockistan" to get bin Laden if the Pakistani's refused to do it themselves. Right policy, sure. Naive and insulting to our ally to announce it publicly, absolutely.

Virginia S. Wood, Psy.D., Instructor said...

This was a priceless post--thanks so much for making me laugh out loud over something that, while laughable, isn't actually very funny any more.

I'm voting early, myself.

Tenured Radical said...

Anonymous 4:05:

We take down racist comments at Tenured Radical.


Notorious Ph.D. said...

Okay, but there was one moment of comic relief -- sadly, provided by Obama. In response to McCain's proposal that health care plans be allowed to market their wares across state lines, Obama pointed out that this would prompt unscrupulous companies to simply set up shop in whatever state regulated them the least. I got there a step ahead of him, and couldn't believe he went there: "This is exactly what happened with the credit card industry, when they all set up in [wait for it...] Delaware."

I imagine it was probably one of those moments when he was looking at himself from the outside, trying to stop the stupid thing from coming out of his mouth, but unable to do anything.